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Kennet and Avon Canal

From Academic Kids

The Kennet and Avon Canal at Brass-Knocker-Bottom near Bath
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The Kennet and Avon Canal at Brass-Knocker-Bottom near Bath

The Kennet and Avon Canal is a canal in southern England. It is joined to the Bristol Avon at Bath, and the Rivers Kennet and Thames at Reading. The canal is 57 miles (92 km) long, but together with the Avon Navigation and Kennet Navigation it totals 87 miles (140 km). In the Avon valley south-west of Bath, including the area shown in the image, the classic geographical example of a valley with all four forms of ground transport is found: road, rail, river, and the canal.

Designed by engineer John Rennie, construction of the canal started in 1794. The canal opened in 1810, with some impressive engineering feats, including a number of aqueducts, locks and pumping stations. The pumping stations, Claverton Pumping Station and Crofton Pumping Station, were needed because of water supply problems.

The opening of the Great Western Railway in 1841 relieved the canal of much of its traffic, and in 1846 the railway company took over the running of the canal, levying high tolls until the canal was hardly used. By the 1950s large portions of the canal were closed because of poor lock maintenance, and in 1956 the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust successfully petitioned against its legal closure. In 1963 the newly formed British Waterways took over the canal and began restoration work.

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Caen_Hill_Locks.jpg
These 16 locks in a straight line at Caen Hill form part of the Devizes flight of 29 locks

In 1990 Queen Elizabeth II reopened the canal but, because of problems with pumping, the canal could be used only part-time until August 1, 1996 when new backpumps were installed at the Caen Hill flight of 29 locks at Devizes. The pumps raise water 235 feet (72 m) at a rate of 300,000 imperial gallons per hour (380 L/s). In October 1995 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted the project 25 million towards further structural improvements and maintenance.

The canal today is a popular heritage tourism destination, especially around the city of Bath, a popular cultural and historical tourist destination. The canal is also important for wildlife conservation. A notable feature of the canal is the large number of concrete bunkers known as pillboxes still visible along its length; these were built during World War II as part of the GHQ Line to defend against an expected German invasion.

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